"About the Work" with Jane Zwart

In our "About the Work" series, Natalie Tombasco asks recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Jane Zwart's poem, "Pink Noise Machine," in SER Vol. 40.1.


 

My dad painted houses for a living, and when I was young, he spent many evenings doing his own bookkeeping at his massive desk in a room with plaid wallpaper. That was thirty-some years ago.


Twenty-some years ago, sitting at the edge of Lake Michigan, I filled an awkward silence by telling someone I didn’t know very well that I loved hearing the waves spill and withdraw. "Why?" she asked. "It sounds like my dad paying bills," I said. The awkward silence slid back into place, but by then I was thinking about that simile, slipping it into one of my mind’s back pockets.


A year ago, I called the loop of "river sounds" to which I fall asleep most nights "white noise." "It’s pink noise, actually," my son said, and explained the difference—white noise is synthetic, mechanical; pink noise, organic—though he didn’t use those words.


Anyway, the poem came from those moments: from my dad jimmying remittance slips and checks into envelopes with cellophane address windows; from my hearing, in a big lake’s surf, my dad’s exasperated, gentle wrestling with his bills; and from my son alerting me to the way only some sounds blush.


 

JANE ZWART teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have previously appeared in Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and Poetry, as well as other journals and magazines.